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Race conditions and data partitioning: risks posed by common errors to reproducible parallel simulations...

by James J Nutaro, Ozgur Ozmen
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SIMULATION: Transactions of The Society for Modeling and Simulation International
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When parallel algorithms for simulation were introduced in the 1970s, their development and use interested only experts in parallel computation. This circumstance changed as multi-core processors became commonplace, putting a parallel computer into the hands of every modeler. A natural outcome is growing interest in parallel simulation among persons not intimately familiar with parallel computing. At the same time, parallel simulation tools continue to be developed with the implicit assumption that the modeler is knowledgeable about parallel programming. The unintended consequence is a rapidly growing number of users of parallel simulation tools that are unlikely to recognize when the interaction of race conditions, partitioning strategies, and simultaneous action in their simulation models make results non-reproducible, thereby calling into question the validity of conclusions drawn from the simulation data. We illustrate the potential dangers of exposing parallel algorithms to users who are not experts in parallel computation with example models constructed using existing parallel simulation tools. By doing so, we hope to refocus tool developers on usability, even if this new focus incurs loss of some performance.